Monday, November 21, 2011

Slater's 50/50 and Danny Downer

We went to the new Slater's 50/50 in in San Diego's Liberty Station on Friday night.   Before we went I had seen on Slater's website that it offered a good selection of craft beers.  I had also read The Hop Daddy beer blog, which mentioned that Slater's had 111 taps.  Slater's website only lists a handful of its beer options, shortchanging, for some reason, its actual number of taps.  I don't know if Slater's really has 111 taps (the manager told me there were 111) or whether near its closer to 80 taps (like Slater's website states), all I know for certain is there are plenty of beer drinking options.

Some restaurants have a large number of taps, but upon closer inspection, you are left with about three beers you'd want to drink (read: Yard House).  But Slater's 50/50's 111 taps were stocked with mostly good stuff, including Stone Brewing, Ballast Point, Bear Republic, Alesmith, Port/Lost Abbey, Iron Smith, and Green Flash beers to name a few.  Plus, there was a fair number of quality Belgian beers.  Sure there were a handful of macros - Bud, Bud Lite, Ultra, Stella, Blue Moon etc. - but with 111 taps seeing these beers is expected, and who really cares because the important point is that the tap choices at Slater's are heavily weighted towards good beer.

I told a friend about Slater's, which has only been open about a week, and he immediately started putting it down.  He didn't like the namesake 50/50 burger, which is half hamburger meat and half bacon, the regular burger patty that he had fell apart, and other people he knew didn't like it either.   How can someone form such a negative opinion on a week-old restaurant?   I thought the food was good.  Slater's is a brewpub-type burger joint, and it fits this style well.  I don't eat hamburgers that often, but I have no problems with quality of Slater's burgers.  (I had the Thanksgiving Turkey Burger and liked it.)  The service was friendly and attentive, too.  With about 90 to 100 viable draft beer options to enjoy, what the heck do you want, The French Laundry?  My friend and his negative cohorts can avoid Slater's, this leaves more beer for the rest of us.

(The picture above is a Lost Abbey Red Barn in a fancy Lost Abbey glass.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Round Up - Damnation Batch 23 and Confluence

Here are a couple of quick reviews on two excellent beers.  Russian River Brewing's Damnation Batch 23 is the latest periodical release of the ramped up version of Russian River's year-round Damnation.  Damnation is a Belgian Strong Ale and Batch 23 is Damnation on steroids.   Strong is the key word, as it has an 11% abv compared to Damnation's 7% abv.  Batch 23 is scary smooth, the most drinkable "big" beer I have had in recent memory.  It is yeasty and fruity at the front, with a balancing hop bitter finish.  It is a rich, full-bodied beer.  As you can see in the attached picture, Batch 23 is highly carbonated, and the intense bubbles give the beer a welcome creaminess.  It is worth finding this infrequently released beer.

I am continuing my quest for good sours. As noted in the previous blog post, I went to Pizza Port Ocean Beach's sour and rare bottle night as part of San Diego Beer Week last Friday.  I stayed long enough to pick up my food and drink an Allagash Confluence.  Confluence made the fifteen minute wait in line seem short.  As I took my first taste of this wild American ale, the roar in Pizza Port faded and I heard a chorus of angels sing, "Hallelujah."  Confluence is an excellent sour.  It helped cement my preferred flavor profile for sour beers - strong sour initially and through the middle followed by increased bitterness, and minimal sweetness all around.  Confluence's yeast gave it a funky sour flavor, and it had a nice hoppy bite in the finish.  There was a faint note of sweetness that served to balance, not distract, and it is in no way a sweet beer.  Too much sweetness diminishes a sour beer.  Confluence had a strong body that supported its complexity.  I would have had liked more time to savor this distinct beer.  Like with Batch 23, you'll be doing yourself a favor trying Confluence.

Monday, November 14, 2011

11.11.11 on 11.11.11

I managed to have a Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11 on its actual namesake date 11.11.11.  It wasn't my deliberate intention, but when I found the sour beer night at Pizza Port Ocean Beach too crowded, I figured it'd be worth grabbing a bottle of the latest Stone release for home consumption.  I'll get right to the point - 11.11.11 was better than I was expecting.  I know that's not a ringing endorsement, but I was suspicious when I heard it was being brewed with chilies and cinnamon.

It poured a clear, deep mahogany, with quick dissolving sand-colored foam.   The chilies provided some spicy heat, but I did not detect too much flavor from them outside of their heat.  The main taste I picked up was cinnamon.  It was present throughout, even with the bittering hops in the finish.  The other taste was booze, which was noticeable from beginning to end.  (I am not sure of the beer's abv, but would guess between 8% and 9%.)  There are plenty of flavors going on in this beer, and I am going to need another bottle (or several) to get its full measure.  I did not do 11.11.11 justice by drinking at least half of it with a pizza dinner, but most of my beer drinking is with dinner.

I compare all Vertical Epics to my favorite, 08.08.08.   11.11.11, while complex and interesting, is not as good as '08's Vertical Epic.  On the positive side, it's much better than last year's experimental wine wannabe, and I want another, which is also positive.  11.11.11 is an approachable extreme beer, but you'll find yourself sipping it despite its easy drinkability.  The cinnamon and chile heat could qualify this beer as a one-off Stone holiday beer.  Stone has one more Vertical Epic left, and I am already starting to miss the concept.  It's time to start the speculation on next year's Vertical Epic grand finale.   I am rooting for a monster Belgian quad, thick as molasses, with a big dried fruit profile, and hops, loads and loads of hops.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


On Friday I wanted to go to The Blind Lady to meet The Bruery's Patrick Rue and try some The Bruery beers, as part of San Diego's Beer Week.  I drove by The Blind Lady twice trying to find a place to park while noticing the crowd inside.  After the second pass, while driving west on Adams Avenue, I decided to skip The Blind Lady and see if I could find parking and a restaurant somewhere on 30th Street.  My parking impatience resulted in trying an amazing beer and having a superb lunch. 

The Beer Rovette and I decided to eat at The Linkery, where we found convenient parking and a modest late lunchtime crowd.   Green Flash's Le Freak was on cask.  I had seen this beer in bottles for years but had never tried it.   It was delicious.  Being on cask and near room temperature made Le Freak's flavors pop.  Le Freak is a Belgian IPA, and it was a perfect blend of fruity, yeasty, hoppy goodness.  I never would have guessed its alcohol level was near 9%.  It was incredibly drinkable, and as I worked my way down the glass I kept taking smaller and smaller sips to avoid finishing the beer.  I need to go get and drink a bottle of Le Freak to see if it comes close to the cask version, but I am afraid that it won't live up to my expectations.

The other beer in the picture above is Mission Brewery's Hefeweizen, which is a zesty, spicy hefeweizen.   Lunch at The Linkery was excellent, it was my good fortune that I could not find a place to park at The Blind Lady.  The Beer Rovette and I shared soup, salad and a burger.  At my age and girth, I try not to eat french fries, but I had to make an exception for The Linkery's fries, which we ordered as an appetizer.  They are cooked in meat fat, which makes them decadent and cholesterol bursting.  Every time I go to The Linkery I wish I lived in North Park so I could eat there more often.  It's one of the best restaurants in San Diego, plus it always has a beer or two on cask.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Second SD Beer Week Post

Well, half way through SD Beer week, this beer blogger has hit exactly zero events out over 400 million.  Pretty pathetic.  Friday, 11.11.11 is shaping up as the day of days for me.  I like the looks of The Bruery's Patrick Rue hosting a lunchtime tasting at Blind Lady Alehouse, which will feature some special The Bruery beers, including Oude Tart, Snickelfritz and 4 Calling Birds.  On Friday night starting at 5:00, Pizza Port Ocean Beach is hosting a night of sours and rare beers.  I am not sure what beers will be on tap, but am hoping for a few Russian River "tion" (shun) beers and The Lost Abbey's Red Poppy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

SD Beer Week

The third San Diego Beer Week starts today (11/4) and runs through next Sunday (11/13).  I haven't paid too much attention to this year's events, as I'll avoid the big festivities and look to hit some smaller venues.  There are more than 460 events listed on the San Diego Beer Week website, ranging from the large, signature Guild Festival, to select beer specials at local retailers.  I have not gone fully through the list, but like the opportunity to meet The Bruery's founder and craft beer rock star Patrick Rue on Friday, November 11 at the The Blind Lady.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Interesting Pending Releases

I saw today that The Bruery is releasing its annual holiday beer, the fourth in its theme of the carol Twelve Days of Christmas, 4 Calling Birds.  Like the previous three releases, 4 Calling Birds is a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.  I really liked the first two versions, but was lukewarm on last year's Three French Hens (I don't think I even reviewed it).  4 Calling Birds is a mighty 11% abv, so I'll have to block out the better part of an evening to drink this beer.

Stone Brewing is releasing this year's Vertical Epic, 11.11.11, on Monday.  It's the penultimate beer in the Vertical Epic series.  This beer is different every year, and 11.11.11 is keeping up the tradition. The Stone Blog states that 11.11.11 was brewed in:
"a Belgian-style amber ale brewed with cinnamon and Anaheim chillis from New Mexico’s legendary Hatch Valley (famous for growing complexly flavorful chillis prized by foodies.)"
 My chili skepticism is somewhat allayed by the beer's 65 IBUs.  Look for both Vertical Epic 11.11.11 and 4 Calling Birds in the next week.

Arrogant Bastard Reprint

I wrote this post on Stone Brewing's Arrogant Bastard over three years ago, and it recently popped up on the list of this blog's most viewed posts.  In summary, I credit Arrogant Bastard for starting the extreme beer trend.